The country exhales after a week holding our breadth for an election result. In trying to process my own feelings about everything, I realize my relationship with America has fundamentally changed.
I am not an American who flies the stars and stripes in her front yard. I have members of my family who serve in the military, but have never felt the pull myself. I celebrate the 4th of July for fireworks and backyard BBQs, not America’s independence. When I travel abroad, I speak Japanese so people can’t necessarily identify me as an American (because of our reputation as not the best travelers). I haven’t always loved America. These last four years, this administration, it’s leaders and some everyday people have made me feel like America doesn’t love me, never has, and shouldn’t have to. Watching the election unfold over the last few days, the fact that the democratic process of voting and the many people who worked tirelessly to count the votes, has changed me in ways that I can’t fully articulate, but am going to try.
In recent years, my faith in government has been shaken. Seeing the norms that hold American society together repeatedly shattered and the line marking decent and respectful behavior continue to be crossed, has left me feeling without hope. Feeling a lot of hurt. I have felt unmoored, by the lack of truth or certainty. But the truth of the democratic process I saw these last few days, has restored my hope in America. People voted in a calm and orderly manner. People voted by mail and early. More people voted in this election than any time in history. And then the vote counting began…
Black. White. Latinx. Native American. Republican. Democrat. Independents. Muslim. Christian. Atheist. Rural folks. Urbanites. So many people. Of all types and stripes. Selflessly working around the clock. Volunteers. Some paid only minimum wage (not necessarily the $15 one). Doing the vitally important work of counting all the votes in this historical election, amid a pandemic. Calmly. Carefully. With dignity and respect for the task at hand. I can’t tell you, how I wished I could hug them all to say thank you. Especially as the days wore on and the public started to get antsy. So many came together, despite their differences, and felt it was a duty and privilege to serve their nation in this way. When public officials spoke, they asked for patience and reminded us that it would take time. All were protecting the democratic process. It may sound cheesy, but I was moved by this expression of patriotism.
Yes, that is what it was. It was patriotism. None were shaken by racism or bipartisanship. They spoke out against claims of fraud or malfeasance. The news outlets were repeatedly giving primers on civics and American history. I was so proud to see people serving the purpose of a free and fair election.
As I sit here in a puddle of tears, crying out and exhaling in relief, despite it’s shameful treatment of people who look like me throughout history, I am proud to be an American today. It’s not a perfect country. There is a ton of work to do. But I can say that a piece of faith has been restored. This is first-hand evidence that there are some things that transcend our differences. And when we find those opportunities, we can work together and accomplish things that change the world.